The Infinite Tides: A Novel

( 6 )

Overview

Set in depleted, post-recession suburbia, with its endlessly interlocking cul-de-sacs, mega-parking lots and big box stores, The Infinite Tides tells the story of star astronaut Keith Corcoran's return to earth. Keith comes home from a lengthy mission aboard the International Space Station to find his wife and daughter gone, and a house completely empty of furniture, as if Odysseus had returned to Ithaca to find that everyone he knew had forgotten about him and moved on.

Keith ...

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Overview

Set in depleted, post-recession suburbia, with its endlessly interlocking cul-de-sacs, mega-parking lots and big box stores, The Infinite Tides tells the story of star astronaut Keith Corcoran's return to earth. Keith comes home from a lengthy mission aboard the International Space Station to find his wife and daughter gone, and a house completely empty of furniture, as if Odysseus had returned to Ithaca to find that everyone he knew had forgotten about him and moved on.

Keith is a mathematical and engineering genius, but he is ill equipped to understand what has happened to him, and how he has arrived at the center of such vacancy. Then, he forges an unlikely friendship with a neighboring Ukrainian immigrant, and slowly begins to reconnect with the world around him. As the two men share their vastly different personal and professional experiences, they paint an indelible and nuanced portrait of modern American life. The result is a deeply moving, tragicomic and ultimately redemptive story of love, loss and resilience, and of two lives lived under the weight of gravity.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781608198627
  • Publisher: Bloomsbury USA
  • Publication date: 5/14/2013
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 400
  • Sales rank: 956,067
  • Product dimensions: 5.50 (w) x 8.20 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Christian Kiefer earned a Ph.D. in American literature from University of California, Davis, and is on the English faculty of American River College in Sacramento. His poetry has appeared in various national journals including the Antioch Review and Santa Monica Review. He is also an accomplished songwriter and instrumentalist, known as a solo recording artist and as a collaborator with some of the leading lights of the indie rock scene. He lives in the hill country north of Sacramento with his wife and five sons.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 2.5
( 6 )
Rating Distribution

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Sort by: Showing all of 6 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted April 14, 2014

    Extremely monotonous, repetitious, and boring.

    If you enjoy reading about migraines, adultry, culdesacs, and seeing numbers everywhere you go, this is for you.

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  • Posted September 10, 2012

    Overlong and repetitious, this self-consciously literary explora

    Overlong and repetitious, this self-consciously literary exploration of an unusual protagonist's psyche offers a disappointing pay-off for the time spent in reading it. The intellectual and emotional musings of a mathmatical savant adrift in the mundane, post-space-walk world are of some interest, but go on too long and fail to capture the reader's sympathy or imagination.

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  • Posted July 21, 2012

    Disappointing

    I purchased this book because some reviewer praise it highly, but this just goes to show that book reviewers are no more objective than movie reviewers, whom I gave up on years ago. Frankly, at lot of the content was depressing - migraine headaches, sudden death of a young daughter, incomprehensible divorce by wife while the protagonist is in space, and adultery. And it's very hard to warm up to the main character who is clearly socially-challenged frequently answering questions with one-liners like 'I'm fine' and 'it's nothing' and 'I don't know.' The only interesting people in the book are the Ukrainians who add a little color and texture. The ending was simply banal and all the inner talk just left me flipping through the pages. The author looks to be an accomplished person, but not in the field of literature, IMO.

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  • Posted June 27, 2012

    An important new writer - read this!

    With his arrival aboard the International Space Station, mathematical genius Keith Corcoran has finally fulfilled his life long ambition of becoming an astronaut, and his amazement at his own achievement is palpable. Rightfully so. He has dedicated his whole life to this moment. Then, while on a spacewalk, at the very pinnacle of his accomplishment, his sixteen-year-old daughter is killed in a car accident back on earth. His powerlessness in the face of personal loss is amplified as he gazes down helplessly from space on the world scrolling beneath him, the language of numbers--gorgeously rendered--suddenly no longer the comfort they had been

    Corcoran's grief is further compounded when his long-failing marriage cannot withstand the piercing tragedy or his prolonged absence in this time of grief. When Keith finally returns to gravity, his family is gone and his house is empty. This might not be so unbearable if he could escape within the equations and calculations of his work as he has always done, but NASA has put him on forced leave, and he must fully confront his loss. With the help of a new friend--a Ukrainian immigrant--Corcoran navigates the suburban world of cul-de-sacs, incomplete housing developments, and shopping malls as he tries to rebuild a life that seems both as mysterious and vacuous as the vast emptiness of space itself.

    At the core of this book is the subject of man dealing with grief, and Kiefer handles this gracefully, tenderly, and honestly. Despite risking sentimentality, the story never descends into melodrama. Indeed, there are a handful of scenes that are as arresting and haunting as any in literature, such as the one in which Corcoran weeps aboard the ISS, his tears floating around him like little diamonds or stars. The elegance with which Kiefer handles grief alone is worth the read. But more subtly this book is about the American need to have our identities tied to our professions.

    Without positing an easy or overt socio-economic agenda tied to the relationship between identity and our market economy, Kiefer presents a man in a crisis of professional and personal identity. As the current economic crisis has shown, people who define themselves by their jobs can be confronted with an existential crisis when standing in the unemployment line. "What do you do?" is one of the first questions adults ask when they engage with each other outside of work. And we are quick to form opinions about people based upon the answers. So, what do we give up for our careers? What are we willing to sacrifice? For Keith Corcoran, the ultimate answer is far too much.

    Kiefer's prose is always intelligent and lyrical, turning the language of math into sheer poetry, but his writing is also at turns heartbreaking and breathtakingly human.

    The Infinite Tides is the most self-assured debut I've ever read, bar none.

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  • Posted June 23, 2012

    Really enjoyed this book. I bought it because one of my english

    Really enjoyed this book. I bought it because one of my english teachers recommended it. The author is also a proffessor at the college I attend. I was not expecting to like it as much as I did, I was supporting the local talent and got a great read out of it.

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  • Posted June 22, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    A beautiful book about loss and recovery

    I don't know whether it was the writing style or the characters or the subject matter that I found difficult a the beginning of this novel (or just the fact that I had about a million other books to read) but I must have started it a dozen times before finally plunging in and reading it all the way through.

    It's a novel about an astronaut and math genius named Keith who has just come back from space (so not so relatable for me) to find that his shrill, unfaithful and perpetually unlikable wife has left him (a sore spot for me since I am a wife who is faithful and hopes to be likable but is, you know, human and possibly prone to shrillness) after the sudden death of their only daughter (there's the kicker--I always find child bereavement stories killers to get through...okay, poor choice of words). So this one was a tough sell for me. I almost gave up and moved on to something lighter or easier from my perpetually growing "To Be Read" pile.

    I am so glad I gave it one more chance.

    The Infinite Tides is a quiet novel that doesn't run from its own grief (even if the protagonist wants to). It's a novel that allows itself to be melancholy, gives the reader permission to cheer the tiny breakthroughs in recovery for our grieving hero Keith (in the form of his new friendships with two of his neighbours) but doesn't provide a sitcom happy ending where everyone's fine and it's as if nothing ever happened. The loss of a child is not like "a very special episode" of Family Ties and Christian Kiefer doesn't treat it as such.

    In the end, it is a book I would very much recommend, but if you are a parent (or in the extreme unlikelihood that you are an astronaut), I would recommend reading it at home when you can check on your children regularly, and not while away on a trip (or in space). It'll make you wish you could tell the people that you love, well, that you love them.

    Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from the publisher from NetGalley. I was not obliged to write a favourable review, or even any review at all. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.

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